Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater? (Should You Forgive A Cheater?)
If he cheats once, will he do it again?
Can cheaters change their ways?
How can you tell if he can be trusted?
The saying goes “once a cheater, always a cheater.” But does it always hold true? Will a cheater always cheat? And should you forgive your boyfriend for cheating and try to salvage the relationship? The answers may surprise you…
First off, let’s look at the data. Repeated studies show that even among married couples, cheating is relatively common: about 22% of men and 13% of women cheat.
According to recent studies, even spouses who describe themselves as “happy” with their marriage have affairs.
This does not make cheating okay but it’s important to understand that if you’ve been cheated on, you’re not alone. Many women have been subjected to cheating in a relationship and have managed to move on with or without their partner.
But what about the cheaters? A study of serial infidelity by the archives of sexual behaviour profiled 484 people through multiple relationships.
The study found that those who reported cheating–defined here as sex outside of their relationship–in the first relationship on record were three times more likely to report cheating in their next relationship when compared to those who did not report cheating in the first relationship.
Should You Forgive A Cheater?
While many do reoffend, this is not to say that most cheaters are repeat offenders. There are many factors that affect the likelihood of repeated cheating. And unfortunately not a lot of research has been done on this subject. So the truth is “Once a cheater, always a cheater” is still up for debate.
This means that there’s no way to be certain that your partner will not cheat again. But here are some insights from relationship experts about how to move forward if you’ve been cheated on.
Genuine remorse is a sign of change
If you’re trying to decide if you can trust your partner again, you need to look for genuine remorse for their cheating. This goes beyond just an apology. They need to show you that they regret their actions and are taking steps to change their behaviour.
RELATED: How To Confront A Cheater
This means taking responsibility for what happened. They have to admit what they did, work to understand how it hurt you and express remorse for their actions.
They need to have a plan to avoid cheating going forward and make an effort to fix the underlying problem that led to their cheating.
Intention is important
You have to both have a desire to make this work or it’s all for nothing. So remorse needs to be backed up by action that shows both desire and evidence of change.
It’s easy to express remorse but it’s another thing to follow through on that remorse to make a change.
This looks different in different relationships but couples or individual counselling is HIGHLY recommended.
The specific circumstances of the cheating determine its severity and likelihood of being repeated.
First off, look at why your boyfriend cheated. Again, none of this excuses his behaviour but a more nuanced understanding of what led to the incident or incidents will help moving forward.
There are several possible motivations for cheating and each results in a unique type of affair.
Revenge: Often partners will cheat in an attempt to hurt their partner. If this is the case it’s often a one time thing and they’re trying to be caught.
This is very hurtful, destructive and never a good way of coping but there’s a small consolation–since they’re cheating in an effort to hurt you, at least you know they still care about how you feel.
While love has become twisted and deformed, at least it’s still there. It’s up to you to decide if you can forgive and move on.
RELATED: Signs Your Partner Is Cheating On You
Growing apart: This is a common reason for infidelity. In this case, your boyfriend is cheating either to feel some of the intimacy that has been missing from your relationship or he’s doing it to try to get a rise out of you and make you fight for him. Again, this is not justifiable but it can be a wakeup call that can save your relationship from a slow death.
One mistake: This is the cheating of romantic comedies, where alcohol, a work crush and an out of town conference come together in a perfect storm that culminates in one night of regrettable passion.
While this still hurts, it may be the easiest form of cheating to forgive and move on from because it only happened once and they admitted it to you. It’s much more difficult to fix a full-fledged affair.
Sex addiction: While often used as an excuse to justify infidelity, sex addiction is a real disease with real consequences.
If your boyfriend cheated due to sex addiction then this is going to be a difficult road to recovery that will require treatment of the underlying problems that have led to the addiction.
Seeking professional help is VITAL in this situation.
Escape: Many people will have an affair in an attempt to end their relationship.
This is typical for men who have trouble expressing their emotions. You’ll know this is the case if they focus on the negative and instead of trying to fix the relationship, they use the infidelity as an excuse to end it.
This is not fixable for one reason: they don’t want to fix it.
Another factor that affects your ability to forgive is how you found out about the affair.
This is a key factor in whether or not you should trust your boyfriend again. If he admitted it to you because of his guilt then this shows remorse and desire to change. On the other hand, if you caught him cheating or found out about it some other way then trust will be much more difficult to rebuild.
Look At His History
Then there’s his history. As we’ve covered, a history of cheating is a good indicator that cheating will continue. That said, this is easily hidden so it’s much more difficult to factor in.
Another consideration you must make is what state the state of your relationship before cheating.
Basically, how long have you two been together, how close are you and what does the future hold for the two of you. If you two have been together for a long time and have been growing apart then sometimes this can actually be an indicator of the possibility of change.
RELATED: Fear Of Commitment (How To Overcome It)
If he cheated on you when everything was perfect then you’ll need to do some serious thinking. Because it means, despite appearances, either there is something broken in the relationship that was going on unseen, or he has a personal problem he’s hiding from you.
This needs to be sorted out if you’re going to move forward.
Forgiving A Cheater Is Your Decision
So what does this all mean? Should you ever forgive a cheater?
This is an extremely personal decision but hopefully I’ve given you some insight. But first, I’ll ask you this: Do you see any hope of this relationship working out? If you can still see a future with this man, even if it’s remote, then forgiveness is possible.
You need to do it for yourself and for the sake of the relationship. Don’t forgive him because you feel like you have to or in an effort to sweep things under the rug. True forgiveness takes time.
Can You Prevent Cheating Before It Happens?
This begs the question…can you prevent cheating?
While there’s no method that can prevent cheating 100%, my Devotion System is your best bet. I provide techniques and methods to building the healthiest and happiest relationship possible which reduced the risk of cheating substantially.
Ultimately, whether or not you two can move forward together comes down to one question: CAN you forgive?
We’ve talked about all the things that can make forgiveness and change possible but the truth is that sometimes forgiveness is not possible, regardless of circumstance.
And if you can’t forgive it’s not your fault. They’re the one who broke your trust. The circumstances of the infidelity, the pressures associated with it, and the remorse and effort to change on the part of the cheater, really don’t matter if you can’t forgive them.
But before you rush to forgive or condemn your partner, remember this:
You don’t have to decide right away.
Being cheated on is hard enough without worrying about what you’re going to do next. This looming decision to forgive or to break up can create even more stress and disconnection.
For now, just do what comes naturally. You’re well within your rights to seek comfort from the person you’re with or to completely shut them out of your life. You’re bound to be jealous and suspicious.
You’re entitled to feel this way and to express these feelings even if it feels destructive. And remember that forgiveness is something you have to work on and cultivate. It’s common for your feelings of anger and hurt to return even after you’ve forgiven. Don’t worry, this is an ongoing process.
Next, forgiveness doesn’t mean that their actions were okay. Some women refuse to forgive a cheater because they believe that to forgive you need to forget or even accept their cheating. This isn’t the case. Your forgiveness doesn’t lessen how hurtful their actions were. Forgiveness is the act of letting go of these negative emotions.
And you should know that you can forgive a cheater even if you’re not going to continue the relationship.
You should make an effort to forgive a cheater eventually even if you don’t stay with them. This isn’t for them, it’s for you.
If you can’t make the effort to forgive this cheater then the negative feelings can really eat you alive. Plus, it will make future trust and intimacy more difficult. But remember that you get to choose what forgiveness looks and feels like. Sometimes, it’s just about getting closure and moving on.
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